by Elana Jones
“With its own powerful traditions, norms, and values, and a sense of wholeness sui generis, a women’s college helps to develop in students a sense of confidence, competence, and agency.” –Joanne V. Creighton (Creighton)
Throughout the last two centuries there have been many movements that have resulted in more rights, freedoms and equalities for women. Since the 1800s, women have gained the right to vote from the Nineteenth Amendment. The wage gap between women and men is slowly closing through the Equal Pay Act. Women have gained more rights within the workforce. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has barred discrimination in employment on the basis of sex, and another example of the great strides that have been made for women’s rights is that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which granted women their right to safe and legal abortion. Although all of this progress has been made, there are still some ways that women have not received equality with men. One area that this stands out in is higher education. Although there have been many strides made to create equal learning spaces for men and women, there is still a need for single- sex education for women because of the positive impact that it could have on their lives. In this essay I plan to explore the importance and the need of an academic space specifically for women.
It has been proven that some women who attend single-sex institutions of higher learning have higher rates of success in their lives and receive more roles as leaders. According to Thomas McDaniel, more women should be in women’s colleges since female students there come out with more developed leadership skill, greater self-understanding and ability to work with others (McDaniel). Some people may argue that there is no longer a need for single-sex educational institutions, because they believe that this creates isolation. While one may think this creates isolation, how can that be possible when women still live the same lifestyle outside of school? Women still deal with their opponents (men) in the work force, at home, and even something as simple as the grocery store. Just because women chose to further their education at a single-sex institution does not mean that the world outside of there stops revolving.
There is still a need for single-sex education because it gives women an opportunity to become prepared for the future as successful leaders in any venue they choose. Having a same-sex educational experience is very influential in the growth of a young woman due to the fact that she may receive more opportunities than her counterparts at a coeducational institution. Women’s colleges have been around for nearly two hundred years, and they have produced many successful women due to the empowering environments that they provide. While in a college specifically for women, many professors choose to incorporate a feminist perspective while teaching their students. For example, the mission statement here at Stephens College simply states that their plan is to prepare women to be well rounded leaders of this world. Stephens College makes it a priority to produce well rounded women so that we will not be challenged when we enter the work force. Attending a single-sex college decreases competition. We are all working towards the same goal, so it creates nothing but a sisterhood. At a coed university, there is competition in every classroom.
The current issues for African American women’s colleges are the lack of attention they get compared to predominantly white institutions and the fact that there are only two surviving historically black women’s colleges. Those two institutions are Spelman College and Bennett College. Nannette C. Smith, the first African American woman to earn a degree from North Carolina State University, critiques the stereotypical hypothesis that “the ‘white’ colleges with their bigger budgets, bigger endowments, esteemed professors, and extensive resources would be much better able to educate and motivate black students than the black colleges had” (Smith). But, according to Smith’s facts, HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) confer 31% of the SMET (science, mathematics, engineering, and technology) degrees awarded to African-Americans. Why do these students achieve more at HBCUs? In Smith’s view HBCUs “nurture and mentor in order to empower. It is the degree to which we nurture and mentor that empowers our students to visualize future academic success” (Smith).
A study that researchers from the University of Pennsylvania conducted has proven that single sex education is best for students. The researchers traveled to Seoul, South Korea, because students are randomly assigned to either a coed or single-sex high school. The study proved that “girls attending girls’ schools were significantly more likely to attend a four-year college compared with girls attending coed schools. Likewise, boys who graduated from boys’ schools were significantly more likely to attend a four-year college compared with boys who graduated from coed schools” (Park, Behrman and Choi). But as the researchers analyzed their data, they concluded that “single-sex schools are causally linked with both college entrance exam scores and college-attendance rates for both boys and girls. Attending all-boys schools or all-girls schools, rather than attending coeducational schools, is significantly associated with higher average scores on Korean and English test scores. Compared with coeducational schools, single-sex schools have a higher percentage of graduates who moved on to four-year colleges” (Park, Behrman and Choi).
Coed versus single-sex educational is not a big topic that many focus on today, but it is very important to me as a student at a single-sex institution. Attending a single-sex institution may not be the easiest decision to make, but when you take a look at numbers and studies that have been conducted, it is a smart choice. If you want to be a well rounded individual or one who is very prepared for the competitive world, single-sex education is the way to go.
Creighton, Joanne V. “Why We Need Women’s Colleges.” Boston.com. The Boston Globe, 21 May 2007. Web. 15 Jan. 2013. <http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2007/05/21/why_we_need_womens_colleges/>.
McDaniel, Thomas R. “Where the Girls Are.” Academic Leader. Jan. 2007: 8. Web. 15 Jan. 2013. <http://www.biz.colostate.edu/mti/tips/pages/WhereTheGirlsAre.aspx>.
Park, Hyunjoon, Jere Behrman, and Jaesung Choi. “Single-Sex vs. Coed: The Evidence.” National Association For Single Sex Public Education. National Association for Single Sex Public Education, n.d. Web. 8 Apr. 2013. <www.singlesexschools.org/evidence.html>.
Smith, Nannette C. “Empowering African Americans in the Sciences.” NSTA WebNews Digest. National Science Teachers Association, 1 Nov. 2000. Web. 3 May 2013. <http://www.nsta.org/publications/news/story.aspx?id=40989&print=true>.